A sombre trek down the Cape Shore

Peter Jackson
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It is the middle of the summer, and Placentia is shrouded in … in what?

Mist? Yes, there is tangible moisture in the air. It comes and goes.

Fog? Yes, but you can see down the road as far as the breakwater. Turn around and you can see the gut, and even Dunville beyond. But you can’t see Point Verde at the cusp of the Cape Shore.

This is not real fog. It is test-tube fog, swirling up from an unseen beach like a science experiment, cold ocean meeting air so warm and humid you feel you could propel yourself through it like a fish through water.

On this day like no other, they’ve come to bury a man who died before his time. The youngest of five brothers and one sister, his siblings all on the verge or in the early days of retirement.

He worked in Alberta, where most of his family lived and worked at one time.

On the commute one day in July, he suffered a heart attack. His car drifted off the road. The news took everyone off balance.

He was a happy, engaging fellow. That’s what they always say, and yet you know it’s true in this case. No one can recall him not smiling.

His brothers grin and have a scattered laugh. Most live in Western Canada, and have come a long way to be back in their birthplace. They are comforted by dozens of relatives and friends, but the weariness of the past few weeks is unmistakable on their faces.

They lost their mother only a few short years ago; their father long since passed on.

In the old Catholic church, the minister says a few words about a man he did not know, mixes up names at one point, but gets the message right in the end. In the parking lot, acquaintances are made again, and then a convoy slowly forms for the trip down the shore.

They drive past Point Verde. One of them owns property there. They pass Little Barasway and Big Barasway, an English corruption of the French barachoix, meaning brook.

They pass Ship Cove, where the family originally lived; it is home now to one family, the Tobins, who operate the Spyglass Creamery.

Nearby is Gooseberry Cove, where the late Bill Patterson reigned as unofficial mayor, his large cottage perched at one end of the beach. Patterson, a longtime Placentia politician, was larger than life. He died a few years ago, his funeral attended by several members of the Tory old guard. He left behind a huge family, including 11 children, 18 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Onwards the little train of vehicles goes, weaving up and down through each deep bight until it reaches a grassy cemetery on the side of the road near Patrick’s Cove. It is here the ashes of the youngest brother will be laid to rest, following a few friendly words from a priest.

A large bee weaves through the crowd on its windblown journey to flowers unknown.

Roses are laid at the urn. Some tears flow, a few eyes well up. But there is a stoical composure to this flock of mourners gathered on a meadow above the misty waters of Placentia Bay.

A few miles down the road is the town of St. Bride’s, whose bright-coloured houses can pierce the thickest fog. And beyond that, Cape St. Mary’s, from which the shore gets its name.

At the cape, on a mighty sea stack soaring up from the shore below, seabirds have settled into their summer routine, the frenzied nesting period long since past.

Soon, the colder weather will set in, and the gannets, kittiwakes and murres will migrate further out to sea.

But the giant rock still stands, immutable, impervious, waiting for the seasons to change and the cycle of life to begin anew.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s

commentary editor.

Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Catholic church, Tory

Geographic location: Placentia, Alberta, Western Canada Little Barasway Ship Cove

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Recent comments

  • Patricia Whitehor
    August 14, 2013 - 21:59

    Wow! Beautifully written! What a nice tribute to a wonderful man and my friend, thank you! Reading it, I felt like I was reliving that sad day again.

  • Erica Griffin
    August 14, 2013 - 18:38

    Thank you Peter. It is a beautiful write-up of that day, even if it is a hard day to remember.

  • Peter Jackson
    August 14, 2013 - 12:23

    Thanks, Marty. Just to clarify, this is not a news article or obituary. It is a column. I personally chose to leave the name out to drive home the universality of the experience, and to respect the family's privacy. Anyone who knew the deceased would realize who it is. I mentioned Mr. Patterson partially out of contrast, as he was a much more public figure. I hope this clears things up.

  • Marty
    August 14, 2013 - 11:45

    Since the author took the time to write this detailed article, why did he not identify the deceased. The only individual mentioned is Mr. Patterson, who passed away several years ago who obviously is not the subject of the piece. something missing here.